By Henry Uche
In pursuant to its policy drive to promote open and transparent administration, the Lagos State government has launched a Whistle Blower Initiative with the aim of halting financial leakages and other forms of frauds and misconduct from regulators, employees, managers, consultants, vendors, directors in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) among other stakeholders.
At the launch in Lagos, the Executive Chairman of Lagos Internal Revenue Services (LIRS), Mr. Ayodele Subair, said the Initiative was geared towards abolishing the culture of keeping silence in the face of all manner of behavior and attitude depicting fraud and misconduct.
The Initiative called -Deloitte Tip-Offs Anonymous, piloted by LIRS as the State Government’s major revenue Agency is in tandem with the Agency’s continuous strive and drive to ensure that its responsibilities to the State is carried out efficiently and effectively.
“This Initiative asides from seeking to enlighten and sensitize the tax-paying public on the initiative, is hinged on the commitment of the Agency and the State Government to ensuring high ethical standards in all its business processes.
“As a reputable agency, LIRS operates under strict guidelines or code of ethics which prescribes the standard of conduct expected within the Agency and during its interaction with various stakeholders. Hence, all employees and other stakeholders are expected to maintain/uphold these standards at all times in the discharge of their respective duties,”
LIRS chairman stressed that it was on backdrop of the Agency’s unflinching commitment to uphold highest standards of transparency, integrity and accountability in its dealings and interactions with relevant stakeholders that the Lagos State Government (LASG) with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) having an oversight function, subscribed to the Deloitte Anonymous and Confidential Whistle-Blowing Facility.
“The Facility is expected to promote an enabling climate for employees and other relevant stakeholders to report wrongdoings, illegal actions or financial crimes noticed and /or observed in LIRS administrative and operational activities, without fear of backlash.
“It would assist in evaluating and improving existing system and assess key practices necessary to create an effective speak-up culture. The engagement of independent assessors in this initiative is to ensure an objective and unbiased review of issues raised. It would also be used to design and build an improved system or serve as basis for internal self assessment or external review.
“This Whistleblowing Facility would involve the reporting of acts of commission or omission that borders on unethical conduct of employees, management, and other stakeholders by an employee or other interested person(s) through designated channels to appropriate authorities. The aim of this Policy is to encourage employees and other stakeholders who have serious concern about any aspect of the Agency’s operations to come forward and voice those concerns,”
Subair stressed that the Facility is designed to ensure that concern about wrongdoing or malpractice within the Agency can be raised by any stakeholder without fear of victimsation, subsequent discrimination, disadvantage or dismissal.
He noted that the Initiative does not only provide the avenue to report, but ensures credibility of reports through investigation, feedback to the whistle-blower and ensures protection for such whistle-blower from possible reprisals or victimisation for all disclosures made in good faith, adding that all concerns will be treated in confidence with efforts made towards concealing the identity of the whistle-blower if It is his or her wish.
“The whistle blowing framework is a two-way affair aiming to expose LIRS staff involved with misconduct, employees of business entities who want to report employers who circumvent tax laws (e.g. deduction of PAYE and non-remittance, exploitation of illegal tax evasion/ avoidance schemes) or even members of the public who want to raise the alarm on persons or entities who wifully commit financial crimes leading to revenue loss for the State. All reports must be made in good faith as allegations made frivolously, maliciously or for personal gain would attract appropriate sanctions,” he assured.
Explaining the Initiative, a Partner at Deloitte, Reulah Adeoye, while assuring Whistle Blowers of their safety and confidentiality maintained that it is the Social and Civic responsibility of citizens to blow the whistle when they see or perceive a wrong doing.
According to him, some behavior and attitudes depicting frauds and misconduct are but not limited to: Assets misappropriation, embezzlement, money laundering, threat, false declaration of earned income, failure to remit withholding taxes, over- invoicing.
Others are: Kickback, under- invoicing, expense claim abuse, misuse of authority, insider trading, forgery, stealing, questionable payments, willful underpayment of taxes, failure to remit tax deductions to LIRS, wilful failure to file tax returns.
Adeoye revealed that people could get started in the Whistle Blowing Action by downloading the ‘Deloitte Tip-Offs’ App from Google Play Store, and follow the instructions to lodge coLodgemen. He confirmed that the public can also use firstname.lastname@example.org or use the toll free lines (0800-8476337/ 0800-Tipoffs) with English, Yoruba, Igbo, Pidgin or French languages to communicate or use their website accordingly.
“We provide the channel. Whistle Blowers can use any of the available channels, we are available 24/7. A whistle blower can choose to f completely anonymous, partially anonymous disclose every confidential information required. Stakeholders are to take precautions and remain discreet, avoid malicious calls, provide all available information of any case,” he added.
On his part, the Lagos State Commissioner of Finance, Rabiu Onaolapo Olowo, expressed satisfaction over the Initiative saying that such would cut off financial losses and boost its revenue base.
According to him, it would help to restore public trust and confidence and check internal control mechanism of MDAs. “Everyone is involved in this Whistle Blowing. It’s a commitment we all must take on, to get rid of every action designed to impoverish the state through different malicious and fraudulent acts by some persons.
“This Initiative would redefine customer experience, help government to deliver more democracy dividends as sanity, honesty and transparency would be restored between and among individuals and corporates while transacting any business that affects the state,” he maintained.